The Race That Wasn’t (Lake Zurich Tri) – 7/11/21

** Yes, I realize that there is a more formal name to the event.  For reasons that you’ll see later on, I am referring to it just as the Lake Zurich Triathalon. **

As I’ve mentioned many times in the past, the Lake Zurich Triathalon is one of my favorite races.  And that’s with having to wake up at 4AM to do packet pickup and the first part of transition set up in the dark.  It’s a great setting, and is typically a great course.  It’s also an opportunity to get some massive speed on the downhills that are on the backside of the bike loop.

During the 1:1 portion of the Injured Military Camp, Lee had fallen and injured his wrist.  So a few weeks out, there was a concern that he wouldn’t be able to race.  Thankfully, it wasn’t as serious as originally thought, and he was all set to go.  And while we were ready to go, the reace apparently was not. 

About 9 days prior to the race, an e-mail was sent out that essentially said ‘IDOT didn’t finish as we thought they would, we don’t have an alternative, so it’s now an Aquathon.  Oh, and there are no refunds.’  Less than 24 hours later, a second e-mail was sent out offering more reasonable options, including deferrals to 2022.

While I realize that part of triathalon is adapting to changes, I have a huge issue with the ‘it’s now an Aquathon, no refunds’ from the intial e-mail.  IMO, the first e-mail shouldn’t have ever come out.  If it had just been the second e-mail, I would be feeling a lot different.  However, there was an initial thought of ‘let’s make OUR lack of contingencies YOUR problem.’  I also believe that it was a HUGE slap in the face to their sponsors, as things like this can drive people away. 

It would have taken almost 2 hours in transit to race an Aquathon. So I did not race; I also did not take the deferral.  The main reason for that is that I wanted the swag.  The Tri backpack that I have is slowly wearing out, and I would be receiving a new one for being one of the first 500 to register for 2020 in late 2019.

While I have truly loved doing this race, I am done with it until it’s under new management.  I won’t go into everything publicly, but just re-read the last few paragraphs and you’ll get a sense of why.  I truly, truly, truly hope that someone buys this race from the current RO.  I would gladly come back under different management. 

**UPDATE: After about 2 months, I did finally receive the backpack and additional swag.

Welcoming Archie – 7/4/21

Earlier this year, I was presented with an opportunity to obtain a new piece of equipment.  While it took a month before I was able to get assistance with putting it together, I wanted to introduce everyone to Archie (formally Archie L.).

I am extremely grateful to Challenged Athletes Foundation and ElliptiGO USA for providing the equipment for me!  I look forward to getting used to it first on the stand and then taking it on the road.

I am visually impaired, and I realize that the last part of the prior paragraph will make my family nervous.  But one of the biggest things that I was looking forward to when the ElliptiGO aarived was getting my independence back.  It’s been about 30 years since I’ve had the confidence (and vision) to be out on a single bike by myself.  But I look forward to the challenge — and the freedom.

Much, much more to come as I get used to Archie.

Steelhead 70.3 Relay (6/27/21)

During the 2019 season, a few of my teammates talked me into doing a 70.3.  The original plan for 2020 was to do a relay in the summer and then for all of us to do one sole (with guides) in the fall.  However, even before the Pandemic hit, the others decided that the fall 70.3 wouldn’t work for them.  While I had to tap out of doing the solo 70.3 in the fall, I was still on board for the relay.

The weather on Saturday created some changes, but everything worked out.  I am extremely grateful to Mara and the rest of the Athlete Services staff for all of their assistance not just during packet pickup, but throughout the entire event. 

There were some pretty fierce storms throughout the day / night, and the swim ended up being cancelled.  This mean that Eric didn’t get to swim, and it also led to a time-trial type bike start based on bike finish times.  As we were waiting to start, we heard that someone had wiped out on the bridge and heard the ambulances going by.

So when we started about 40-45 minutes after the cannon start, we took that first mile a extremely cautiously.  After that first mile, things went smoothly on the first half of the bike leg.  There was one gigantic hill that was a challenge, but the overwhelming majority were rollers.  Although I don’t have an exact speed, I would guess that we were averaging between 23 and 24 mph on the way out.

The second half was unfortunately an entirely different story…  At that point, I started having issues with IT bands and sit bones.  It essentially turned into a walk/run, but on a bike.  We had to continually stop so that I could try and stretch things out.  Thankfully, our starts and stops were solid, so even though we did a total of about a dozen during the bike, there weren’t any issues.  There were a couple of points that I was in so much pain (especially after that gigantic hill) that I was in tears.  However, there wasn’t any way that I was going to tap out or ask for the SAG.

When we did finally make it back to transition, Sarah was ready to go.  Our plan was to walk up to where the loops ended so that we could cheer her on.  After having some time to recuperate, we started walking there with Eric.  Because the road was active, we had to walk on the shoulder.  And while we were able to get about 3/4 of a mile in, it just wasn’t possible to get to the loop splits.  So we ended up in a restaurant while waiting for her to run by.

Just looking at the tracker, it seemed like the heat and humidity was taking a toll on her  — but she was still having a solid run.  We did all manage to make it out to cheer her on when she passed by.  After she finished, I found out that we had won the PC Open category! 

While it was a struggle on the bike, it was still a lot of fun.  I am grateful to everyone who made the weekend a success and to Billy for guiding and Eric/Sarah for being the other parts of the team.  I look forward to doing another 70.3 Realy in 2022!

Indianapolis Sprint Tri – 6/12/21

With the season in full swing, I knew that there would be some short turnarounds. As a case in point, I was in Indiana (Hammond) on Sunday and then headed back again (to Indy) less than 5 days later.

While in Texas, I had connected with a guide (Nelson) that I hope to work with on a consistant, long-term basis. The Indy Sprint Tri was our first race on that journey.

When we met at Eagle Creek Park on Friday afternoon, the main focus was to get the bike adjusted and get in a quick course preview. There were a couple of close calls early on, but no crashes. As we did the park portion of the loop, there seemed to be a bit of wobble with the bike and gear issues. When we got back to the car, we saw that the shifting cable had frayed. This meant that we were without the three lowest climbing gears for a bike course that’s full of hills. While we weren’t able to get it repaired prior to the race, Carmel Bicycles was able to help stretch it so that we got back 1 or 2 of those gears.

For most every race, the game is ‘what will James forget to pack’. Usually, it’s something insignficat that I can easily buy or borrow. However, this time it almost cost me… I unintentionally left my race bib on the hotel desk. I didn’t realize this until we were getting everything set up and it was too late to go back for it. Thankfully our support crew (Linda) was able to get a replacement one for me from the race staff (hand written on the back of another bib).

For the swim, you were seeded by bib number and could drop back if needed. To help minimize people running into us, we dropped back towards the end. While people didn’t run into us, we did have a couple of unexpected tangles. The tether got caught up on the sighting buoys a few different times, with the most severe being before the first turn.

As we headed out onto the bike, I cut the corner too tight and tripped over the cones. Everything was OK, and we headed into ‘hill fun’. With the missing gears, there were challenges at several points of the bike. I also know that I had to push it a lot harder, as we were at least 2 gears higher than we should have been.

When the run started, we walked up the big hill and then started running. The first mile wasn’t bad, but by the second, my back was really starting to tighten up. Because of this, mile 3 was mostly a walk/run. Even with those challenges, the run in Indy was far better than the prior 2.

It was great to see the TriLoco guys post-race. TriLoco helped with guides in prior years. I am grateful to everyone who helped make the weekend possible, and look forward to working more with Nelson in the future.

Leon’s Triathlon – 6/6/21

While things did not go as planned in Texas, I was confident that they would go better in IN. And I was partially right…

As usual, Lee and I went out the day prior, as he is always a 1:1 guide for the Dare2Tri Injured Military Camp. During that afternoon, we had a chance to do the swim course preview and get the bike set up.

For the normal Sprint, it was a 500m swim in the normal L. For the Para Sprint, it was 750m in the shape of a checkmark. There’s typically a 15 minute break between the Para wave and the 1st (fastest) Sprint wave. In the past, that’s always worked out well and we’ve been out or almost out of the water by the time that next wave catches us. However, with them doing a shorter course and different angles, there were a couple of collisions in the water. Even still, it felt like a good swim and we headed to T1.

As we got onto the bike, things went really well — at least for us. Unfortunately one of my teammates had ended up on the side of the road with a flat less than a 1/4 mile from transition. I learned later on that they had in fact triple flatted. It stayed good throughout our bike, and we finished strong.

Going out on the run, things started OK… and then they went to crap. I believe part of it was the heat and humidity, as getting hydration in helped. There were points that I was in so much pain even when walking, and the bridge portion (no shade) was the worst. Even still, I found the energy to have th proper kick down the chute. As I’ve said in the past, even if I have to crawl the run leg, I will always find a way to run into/down the chute.

The first two races have not gone as planned. Hopefully things will get better as the season progresses… Also, while it wasn’t the race I wanted, it was still good to see a lot of people that I hadn’t seen since 2019. And I’m extremely grateful to Leon and his mom, along with the Flag Man for all the work that they do to help make this possible. I hope to see more of you in 2022!

Sylvan Beach Triathlon – 5/16/21

In August of 2019, I raced the Chicago Triathalon. It was the end of my 2019 outdoor season, and I expected to be back outdoors about 7 months later in Carmel. But COVID changed all of that… So it was almost 20 month before I had a chance to race outside again.

My first race back was the Sylvan Beach Triathalon. I went down a day early so that I could work with Danny B, who would be guiding me for the first time.

On Saturday, we had an opportunity to make sure that we were in sync for the swim and bike. At that point, the waves were at about a 5 (scale of 1-10) and made it a little challenging for the out. But we knew that we’d get a nice ‘ride’ on the back portion of the course. After figuring out the starts/stops and dealing with chain/gear issues, everything seemed set with the bike.

Race morning did not start off well, and I almost did not get to race. All I can say is that I owe Mother Nature a nice gift basket. I spent more than 45 minutes just trying to get an Uber. When I did, I ended up with a driver that said ‘I am not from here’ and didn’t know how to navigate around the closures. So I arrived at about 13 minutes prior to when transition would have originally closed, and about 1/2 mile from it. Thankfully, the weather had pushed back both transition close and race start, so we had a chance to hurridly set up transition and get ready to race.

While I had benefited from Mother Nature on the front end, I paid for it on the back end. The waves had gone from a 5 on Saturday to an 8+ on Sunday. And there were a couple of points that I could feel them lifting me as I was trying to swim. Because of this, it was decided to tap out of the water for safety reasons. Unfortunately, the tether was lost during that process.

** Note — I know that getting pulled out of the water would normally end the race. I expected to be told our race was done. However, I was specifically told that because this was a Development race, we could continue. **

When we got out onto the bike, the challenges of the day unfortunately continued. It started with an asshat (who I believe may have been part of the race crew, as I saw the truck at a couple other points during the bike/run) pulled right out in front of us as we were on the bike. Thankfully, we were able to avoid a crash, and continued on. At some point into the bike, we lost gears — the bike just wouldn’t shift into them. This meant having to do hills in 5 or 6 instead of 10.

Because of that, I put out a lot of extra energy on the hills. And I paid for it when we made it out onto the run. My legs were shot, and I believe that the most I was able to consistently run was 1/5 mile. That was at the start, and the overwhelming majority was walk/run. I did manage a nice burst into the chute/finish though.

While it wasn’t the race that I wanted or expected, it was still good to be back outside racing after that long. I learned a lot, and knocked the rust off of several things as well.

Thanks to USA Triathalon for doing the clinic / Development Series, Catapult for getting the tandem in place, Danny B for guiding and everyone else that helped make the weekend possible!